Saturday, 24 September 2011
You may have read reports about the increasing cost of dying. According to a recent survey "pushing up daisies" now costs more than £7,000. I suppose one shouldn't be surprised at that since the cost of living is also rising rapidly.
However, it's clear to me that there's a real competition issue here. There is absolutely no competition in this dying market. Death has a stranglehold on what is a pretty lucrative market. You can't get a more secure income stream than the dying (O.K. there's Tesco's).
Death claims that he's the victim of a bad press and inaccurate reporting. It's not his fault that people die. It's the sub-contractors who are to blame.
Speaking to me on a secure line from The Shades, Death said, "I get it in the neck all the time, it's just not fair. If you have a complaint about your death and how much it costs you should take it up with the sub-contractors "Pestilence, Famine and War". My job is policy, the actual form of your dying is their responsibility. If you're dissatisfied with any aspect of your death, including costs and after death service it's them you should contact."
I thought he had a point so I took the matter up with a member of the Coalition Government. Edward Davey is the Minister responsible for consumer issues and competition, as well the Post Office and Royal Mail - so he should know something about a slow, lingering death.
I wanted to know why the dying market hadn't been opened up to competition. He said that Death was a skeletal arms length agency and his department's role was to ensure that competitive markets, working for the benefit of consumers, operated across the economy. With the UK economy "flat lining", there was clearly a risk of anti-competitive behaviour but he and his team were doing their best to increase the choice in dying.
"Barry, across Government, my Coalition partners are doing their best to open up the opportunities to die. Our partners in the energy industry have strained every sinew to increase death choices through their "Inability of pay high energy bills" initiative. Welfare payments are being cut providing many with improved death options, and encouraged by the food industry, offering worthless products guaranteed to shorten life,the consumer now has a bewildering choice of fatal illnesses. This Government has much to be proud of. Just look at the recent Key Performance Indicators set out in Death's current Business Plan. Just to mention one important key area: avoidable deaths are way above target."
I asked whether the Coalition was keen to encourage the individual to play a greater role in Death. "Barry, I have a team of senior advisers and civil servants looking into the recent case of spontaneous human combustion reported in the Irish press the other day. It seems to us that anything that brings down the price of dying must be good for the consumer - especially the elderly who have so little to live for."
"Thank you Minister".